“Early in this century the battle was over the innerancy of the Scriptures. Today the battle is over the sufficiency of the Scriptures.” Dr. James Boice
We have long been concerned about the increasing influence of secular psychology upon the life and ministry of the Church. Borrowing medical terminology and claiming the authority of empirical science, its humanistic theories and methodologies have been welcomed into the very center of the life of Christ’s church. When we deal with “spiritual” matters we still go to the Bible. But, when we deal with the “deep” problems of the soul, we now turn to the “experts” of the psyche, the psychologists and psychiatrists. The Bible, which is designed to purposefully and powerfully deal with the soul is laid aside.
Some of you who read this you may think I am overstating the case. But I can assure you I am not. Let me give you a shocking example of what I am writing about. Recently, a missionary friend called me with great sadness. He had been attending a school of missions that was designed to prepare missionaries for the field. One of the workshops was taught by a psychologist. His focus was upon dealing with deep emotional problems, like depression. In his presentation, he made the following incredible statement: “Use your meds or lose your calling.” To make sure no one misunderstood what he was trying to say, he repeated that line several times. “Use your meds or lose your calling.” He was saying that he believed that depression is so powerful and controlling that unless the missionaries turn to the help of drugs, they will never be able to win the battle and God’s calling would not be fulfilled in their lives.
Let us take time to think about the implications of that statement. First, it reveals this man’s commitment to the latest trend in psychology. At one time problems were seen as originating in nurture, what our parents had done to us. To help, therapy would attempt to bring an insight that would help the sufferer to cope. The latest trend is to focus upon nature, what our parents gave us, our genes and our chemicals. So, depression is now seen as a malfunction of the body, or more specifically, the brain. We are treated like a machine that has a malfunction in one part. Therapy attempts to bring a drug to help the sufferer to cope. We simply add a chemical and the part is fixed.
The world of bio-psychiatry, the one in which this man has apparently put his faith, is terribly conflicted. There is no test to show that a particular depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The anti-depressants that are prescribed do not “heal” depression but can cause the very depression they are supposed to correct [Read the warning labels]. We can say with confidence that they can cause a chemically imbalanced brain by the many side-effects they induce.
But that is not my main concern. What this man misses, and what the sponsoring mission’s organization has forgotten, is that God’s power and promises deal more effectively with depression than any insight or drug man can supply. Did not David, whose tears became his food “day and night,” work through great bouts with depression without drugs [Psalm 42]? Did not Paul, who “despaired even of life,” work through great bouts with depression without drugs [2 Corinthians 1:8-11]?
Think about it. We do not let our missionaries go to the field until they are mature, trained, and empowered to be effective. We do believe that the God who has called them will go with them to minister in the most difficult of circumstances. But, we do not believe, apparently, that this same God can take us into and out of depression through the power and provisions he has given in his Word.
Feelings of depression can come from many sources: sickness, disappointment, grief, the pressures of life and sin. The enemy not only has the ability to bring his attack against our bodies, but also our soul, leading to bouts with depression. The great soldiers of the faith have not been surprised or defeated when such battles have come upon them. They knew that emotional struggles were part of the calling. Listen to how J. I. Packer describes Puritans:
Spiritual warfare made the Puritans what they were. They accepted conflict as their calling, seeing themselves as their Lord’s soldier-pilgrims, just as Bunyan’s allegory, and not expecting to be able to advance a single step without opposition of one sort or another.” [A Quest For Godliness, p. 22]
Now, here is a precious truth we have missed in our desire to be modern and scientific and happy. God often uses even depression to shape and form his people into mighty warriors of faith. Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, are some of the giants of faith that give testimony to that fact. They all went through those times and came out the other side. With Paul they could testify:
“But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Cor 1:9-11
This is what I believe is the great loss in following the thinking of this “expert” in psychology. You can take a med and feel better, but drugs will never get to the root of our struggle, nor will they accomplish the purpose for which God has allowed the experience. Holding fast to our faith [Jude 3], judging ourselves in the light of God’s Word [Matthew 7:1-3], calling for the help of the prayers of fellow believers [2 Cor. 1:8-11], resting and persevering upon the rock solid promises of God’s Word [Romans 15:4], we can live and win in hope [Isaiah 40:31]. In doing so, we glorify Jesus Christ in ways no drug can.
Why have we not consistently and confidently applied the Word to the care and cure of the soul? Perhaps Chesterton was right: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Maybe we just want a quick fix that removes our responsibility for our condition and gets us out from under the pressure as fast as possible. Maybe, we have failed to trust in the full sufficiency of God’s Word because we do not simply and thoroughly apply God’s commandments and promises to the details of our individual situations [John 7:17]. Consequently, we never come to know that Christ’s words are in fact life transforming because we fail to do what God has said.
What is the end result of this kind of thinking on our missions program. First, our missionaries leave unprepared for battle. They cannot really do all things through Christ who gives the strength. They will run from the battle or run to the drug and miss out on what God will teach through depression. Second, and more important, they will never know the depth of the love of God that reaches down deep into the darkest times and places of our soul. They will not discover a faith that remains firm even while the “feelings” cry “no hope.” Finally, they will not be able to discover the joy of glorifying God by the presence and power of Jesus Christ in the midst of one of life’s greatest struggles.
James Boice was right. We are in a battle for the sufficiency of Christ and his Word. It is a battle for God’s glory and a battle for our joy. It is a battle we can and must win!
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